Shop till you drop – a guide to the best shopping in Guatemala

Jürg Widmer Probst - shopping in Guatemala

Shopping is a big deal in Guatemala. From small markets packed with local goods to the big shopping areas of the main cities, there are plenty of chances to shop till you drop while staying in Guatemala.

While the pandemic continues, of course, to interrupt all of our holiday plans, you may well be starting to think about your next trip. And Guatemala should definitely be at the top of your post-COVID-19 holiday list.

Shopping in Guatemala is a great holiday activity

As well as the stunning location and scenery, fascinating history and culture and friendly people, Guatemala also offers plenty of chances for retail therapy. Whether you want to buy something special to take back home with you, such as colourful Mayan clothing, leather goods or jewellery, there is plenty to choose from.

Don’t be afraid to haggle while shopping in Guatemala. My tip would be to always take your time and try and knock some money off until you reach a sum you think it’s really worth. Haggling is expected and completely accepted – and it’s fun!

Here’s my pick of some of the finest places to spend your holiday money while travelling in Guatemala.

5 shopping areas and towns worth visiting in Guatemala

  1. The Mercado Central, Guatemala City

There is nothing quite like the main market to show you what a city is really like. So, to get a taste of the real Guatemala City, you should head down to Mercado Central. It’s huge, it’s vibrant and it is packed with so many fabulous things to buy. Browse through the very high-quality locally made leather goods that Guatemala is so well known for or choose a gorgeous handmade woollen blanket.

It’s also a great place to try some authentic, local Guatemalan food. If you’re feeling peckish while shopping, head down to the lower level of the market and you’ll find endless food stalls. And as I said earlier, don’t be afraid to haggle – you can get yourself a great deal.

  1. Mercado de Artesanias La Aurora, Guatemala City

Another market in Guatemala City, the Mercado de Artesanias La Aurora is smaller and more specialised than the Mercado Central. While the larger market appears to have everything you can think of, this one is more selective. Expect to find a large and eclectic range of locally made crafts, clothes, souvenirs and jewellery, making it ideal to visit before you head home to stock up on souvenirs and presents for the family.

It’s also a much more relaxed shopping experience than the bigger market, so you can take your time and browse for hours. The range of goods on offer is remarkable and you could find yourself whiling away several hours just wandering around. I’d also recommend checking out the nearby Don Emiliano restaurant – I can confidently say the tacos there are among the best in the area!

  1. Street stalls in Panajachel, Lake Atitlan

If you choose to stay near Lake Atitlan (and I would always recommend doing so if you can), you should definitely check out the street stalls located in Panajachel. Close to the lake, Panajachel boasts plenty of excellent stalls packed with local handicrafts and souvenirs and some truly excellent street food.

The quality of the food on offer from the street vendors at this informal market is truly outstanding. Follow the locals for the best choice of stall, although you’re bound to find something delicious whichever you select. Don’t leave without trying the pupusas. These handmade tortillas are stuffed with chorizo, pork, beans and cheese and are truly mouth-watering.

  1. Shops selling silver in Coban

Not a marketplace so much as a shopping area specialising in silver, Coban is attracting increasing numbers of visitors. Local artists abound in the area, all making beautiful silver jewellery. There are lots of shops to browse before making your selection of silver jewellery and I’d also recommend trying to local coffee too.

Coban’s humid, cool climate is ideal for growing coffee and in my opinion the local brew is up there among the best you’ll ever taste. When you’ve had your fill of local silver products and local coffee, you can check out the Mayan handicrafts and art on offer in the local shops too. It’s a great place to visit if you’re in the mood for spending your holiday money and you can easily while away a day wandering around this fascinating town.

  1. Chichicastenango Market, Chichicastenango

Famous throughout Central America, the Chichicastenango Market is a truly fantastic experience. It’s really special and worth visiting due to the sheer range and quality of products and goods on sale. A small Mayan town located in the west highlands of Guatemala, Chichicastenango is a gorgeous place to visit regardless of the shopping. However, the local market alone draws lots of people to the town, thanks to its plethora of gorgeous Mayan handicrafts, local food and clothing